I can hear the stream nearby. I need to sing this lullaby. Keep my baby safe in me, bring me help oh please, please, please.”
Amber held her brother’s hand. “She keeps repeating it over and over. Can I tell her you’re coming?”
“Nay. Don’t.” He smiled at his sister. “You’ve done all you can, go to sleep. I’ll have her home before dinner.”
He nodded to his mother and left the room.
Outside, his father stopped him. “Take more men with you.”
“I do this alone.”
Ian grabbed his arm. “I’m not asking.”
Duncan, who could count on one hand the times he defied his father, did so now, with no regret. “I will not be witnessed in what has to be done. I will use every power at my disposal to bring my wife home. I do it alone.”
Ian relented. “God’s speed.”
Duncan gathered his weapons and pack up his father’s horse which was readied and waiting.
He kicked the horse into a full run in the route he believed his wife to be.
The farther away from the Keep he rode, the stronger her pull became. He headed in the direction of the falls, the opposite way Fin had set out.
Her wrists burned and blistered, she finally managed to loosen the bindings. Lancaster stared off in a catatonic trance.
Grainna gazed into a glass sphere and chanted.
This is so surreal. Hansel and Gretel came to mind. She felt like the little girl who was going to be eaten by the mean ugly witch.
She closed her eyes, attempting to rest. Her body was so tired. Even the pain of all the kicks and hits faded in her crushing need for sleep. She planned, all the while singing lullabies, but the multitasking proved too difficult.
She drifted into uneasy slumber. Her breathing slowed and evened out. It was then she felt him. Her eyes darted open, certain Grainna felt him too. But she remained unmoving, hunched over an old crystal ball. A glimmer of hope filled Tara’s mind. She couldn’t stop the reaction no matter how hard she tried. She let out one thought, I love you!
It came back. I love you, too.
Her heart sang! She looked up and knew her mistake.
Grainna’s sneer pierced her soul. “Let him come.”
Trembling with horror, Tara asked, “Why? You can’t overpower him.” She tossed her head at Matthew. “Not even with your gnome here.”
“You wouldn’t be so arrogant if you knew what I could do.” Grainna moved from the chair to where Tara sat on the dirt floor. “I wonder what they told you of me.”
With the bindings gone from her wrists, Tara felt more confident in her ability to get away. “They told me you were a vengeful witch who took pleasure in other people’s pain.”
“True. So true. You see, however, the key word there is witch. The Ancients took away my Druid powers, but they couldn’t touch those of my black magic.”
She walked to Matthew, put her palm to his face, and drew his blood with the tip of her nail.
Lancaster didn’t flinch.
“I’m a very powerful black witch. I should thank you for leading me back here. With the small taste of Druid blood, I have regained more strength than in our future. Before this day is done, yours and Duncan’s will be added to the mix.”
“So you see yourself as a vampire?” Tara kept her talking. She knew Duncan was getting closer.
“I’ve been called worse.”
“Why? Do you want to rule the world?”
“That, and rid it of every Druid. The whole lot of you.”
Grainna stood close. “Because I can.”
She broke off when the sound of a horse grabbed her attention. “You!” Grainna snapped Matthew out of his catatonic state. “Look.”
Lancaster drew his sword and left the cottage.
Tara yelled to her husband, Watch out!
Grainna moved quickly and struck the warnings from Tara’s head.
Her head snapped back. She tasted blood again.
The rope on Tara’s ankles restricted her movements. She cowered in the corner, rocking and singing—hiding her true intention. She let tears slip from her eyes in a look of desperation, which wasn’t difficult to do.
Grainna turned to the sphere and searched inside. Swirls of smoke billowed beneath glass.
Tara saw Duncan and Lancaster, sparring under the glistening glass.
Duncan circled the cottage, listening to his wife sing. She is standing by the door. Lancaster barged out of the small home.
Duncan waited, his back pressed to the cottage.
Sunlight reflected off Lancaster’s blade. Steel swooped down.
Duncan missed its weight by an inch. He somersaulted away, landed on his feet and leveled his weapon.
Matthew appeared as a warrior ready for battle.
His build, however, was no match for Duncan’s.
“You don’t want to do this, Matthew. She’s controlling your mind and actions.”
Lancaster said nothing. His eyes darted around, searching for a way to attack.
They both crouched and waited for the other to lunge.
“’Tis time for you to go home, Matthew.
Everyone is looking for you.” Duncan’s soothing words were an effort to snap the man out of his trance. The steel grip Grainna held on him proved too powerful. Duncan tried slipping into the man’s mind. But the witch kept him out.
Lancaster glanced away.
Duncan took advantage and moved forward.
Surprisingly, Matthew raised his sword and retaliated with much more strength than Duncan anticipated.
Still, Duncan had him panting with only a few minutes of sparring. He didn’t want to kill the man who had no ability to stop himself.
Duncan lifted a hand and pushed a wind through the tops of the trees. A large branch cracked under the force of air and dropped across Lancaster’s back.
He went to his knees.
Duncan pounced and brought the blunt end of his sword down.
Lancaster crumpled to the ground unconscious.
Grainna roared in anger when Lancaster’s body hit the ground. The vision in the glass globe incited her rage. She pulled a knife off the table and advanced upon Tara. Grainna’s sudden movement forced Tara to slide up the wall and onto her feet. She swung her hands toward the witch. Sparks and flames flew from her fingertips.
Startled, Grainna stood back, brushing at the flames caught on her skirt.
Tara fumbled with the ropes binding her feet, desperate to get loose.
Grainna stood tall, no longer aggressing with her body. Instead she started to chant in a language all her own.
Just as she kicked the ropes around her ankles free, Tara felt the air leaving her lungs and couldn’t draw it back in. She clenched her throat trying to breathe. But no air came. She panicked. Tara screamed in her mind, pleading with Duncan to hurry.